After the release of The Witches on HBO Max, several people have spoken out about the way physical difference is associated with villainy in the new film. The production company behind the movie, Warner Bros., issued short statement of regret about this choice on Nov. 4. Soon after, the star of the movie responded to the criticism too. Anne Hathaway's apology for The Witches controversy addresses the pain caused by her character.
In The Witches, which is based on Roald Dahl's children's book and follows the 1990 movie adaptation of the same book, Hathaway plays the Grand High Witch, the all-powerful leader of witches on Earth who leads a plot to wipe out children. In every iteration of this story, these witches are known for having a frightening physical appearance. However, the most recent adaptation's take on this attribute came under fire for an important reason.
In the original book, the witches are described as having "claw-like" hands. However, in this movie, Hathaway's character is shown with hands that look more similar to ectrodactyly, otherwise known as “split hand,” in which there is an absence of one or more central digits on the hand or foot. British Paralympic swimmer Amy Marren was one of the first prominent people to call out the portrayal of limb differences in The Witches, noting it's upsetting that "something that makes a person different [is] being represented as scary."
Warner Bros. released a statement about the issue on Nov. 4, which, per CNN, reads:
We the filmmakers and Warner Bros. Pictures are deeply saddened to learn that our depiction of the fictional characters in The Witches could upset people with disabilities, and regret any offense caused. In adapting the original story, we worked with designers and artists to come up with a new interpretation of the cat-like claws that are described in the book. It was never the intention for viewers to feel that the fantastical, non-human creatures were meant to represent them. This film is about the power of kindness and friendship. It is our hope that families and children can enjoy the film and embrace this empowering, love-filled theme.
Hathaway shared her apology on Instagram on Nov. 5, along with a video for The Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness about — and celebrates people with — limb differences.
In her apology, Hathaway wrote:
Let me begin by saying I do my best to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others not out of some scrambling PC fear, but because not hurting others seems like a basic level of decency we should all be striving for. As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused. I am sorry. I did not connect limb difference with the GHW when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened.
She went on to say:
I particularly want to say I’m sorry to kids with limb differences: now that I know better I promise I’ll do better. And I owe a special apology to everyone who loves you as fiercely as I love my own kids: I’m sorry I let your family down.
In her apology, Hathaway took ownership for the pain she caused. She also shifted attention to The Lucky Fin Project and their "necessary and inclusive perspective" on limb difference, which will hopefully bring some positivity out of this controversy.
The Witches is streaming on HBO Max now.